Straws, shopping bags, Coca-cola bottles, bottle caps and plastic knives and forks – what do all of these have in common?
Well, for one they’re made of plastic and make our lives easier, but they’re also some of the worst offenders when it comes to polluting our oceans and environment. Every year, irresponsibly discarded plastics are the cause of death for aquatic life, ecosystems and even soil corruption – which has since lead to the banning of plastic straws and plastic bags in certain countries.
However, just how much damage is plastic causing the environment? What is the reason behind plastic being such a destructive force? How much damage do plastic bottles cause the environment and, more importantly, how can plastic bottle manufacturers lessen their impact on the earth?
Read on to find the answers to this question and more.
Why Is Plastic Harmful To The Environment?
While plastic has helped human beings achieve new levels of convenience and progress, it does come with some downfalls.
The majority of plastic that you see is non-biodegradable. This means that over hundreds of years plastic, and plastic bottles made from that, will not biodegrade. This is good news for us, but really bad news for the environment.
When this plastic is thrown into the water, it chokes our ponds, river and oceans, and outright destroys sea life. When thrown on land, it makes the soil less fertile, and can be devoured by animals who lack the ability to break the plastic up in their stomachs.
Right now, there are more than 51 trillion pieces of microplastic in our oceans – that’s more than 500 times the number of stars in our galaxy, and at the current rate of ocean dumping, by 2050 we will have more plastics in Earth’s oceans than there are fish.
Since we rely on the land and the ocean to survive, this is really bad news – and biologists have already detected that we’re eating microplastics from plastic dumped in the ocean.
Plastic Bottles And The Environment
However, plastics have proven to be the most versatile material human ingenuity has developed. Without plastics, our lives would undoubtedly be worse in almost every aspect of life. With this in mind, it is important to note that not all plastics are created equal – and this applies to plastic bottles as well.
While most plastic bottles are non-biodegradable, many are recyclable meaning that they’re better for the environment than others. Let’s take a look at some of the plastic bottles that are better for the environment.
PET bottles, or polyethylene terephthalate bottles are a popular packaging choice for food and non-food products alike for its strength and transparency.
On the environmental side of things, PET is non-biodegradable but has proven to be an effective recyclable plastic. 60% of every recycled PET bottle is able to be repurposed into many products such as:
- Fiber for polyester carpet
- Fabric for T-shirts
- Long underwear
- Athletic shoes
- Upholstery and sweaters
- Fiberfill for sleeping bags and winter coats
- Industrial strapping
- Sheet and film
- Automotive parts, such as luggage racks, headliners, fuse boxes, bumpers, grilles and door panels
- and new PET containers for both food and non-food products
And that’s not all – A recent Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) conducted by the Allied Development Corporation determined how the environmental footprint and greenhouse gas emissions of manufacturing and transporting PET relates to alternative forms of packaging. The first study found that in North America, PET is the most favorable alternative when compared to aluminum cans and glass bottles for a 355 ml carbonated soft drink application. When measuring greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, PET bottles had the best performance.
Biodegradable Plastic Bottles
Recently, there have been strides made to make the non-biodegradable into the biodegradable – meaning that plastic bottles will soon have a lesser impact on the environment.
Two basic classes of biodegradable plastics exist: Bioplastics, whose components are derived from renewable raw materials, and plastics made from petrochemicals containing biodegradable additives which enhance biodegradation. Both these classes use elements of cellulose and starch in order to be produced.
Under proper conditions, some biodegradable plastics can degrade to the point where bacteria can completely metabolise them into carbon dioxide within 24 months. An in-depth study conducted by the Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences submitted a peer-reviewed report that concluded a 91% biodegradation success rate for such plastic products and plastic bottles.
What Are Plastic Bottle Manufacturers Doing?
Many plastic bottles such as HDPE and PET bottles are able to be recycled. In the case of HDPE bottles, they can even be ground up into particles, and remade into new plastic bottles. When plastic can no longer be recycled or repurposed, it is incinerated as to minimise the environmental impact plastic can have on our planet.
The B&I Approach
As a responsible South African plastic bottle manufacturer, B&I recognises the environmental issues relating to production of plastic products. One of the major issues when recycling bottles was the separation of the label from labelled bottles. Most labels are not made from the same raw material as the bottle, and therefore cannot be ground up or recycled. To combat this issue, B&I has opted to use the In-Mould Labeling process in tandem with injection blow moulding of bottles, making the label part of the bottle and of the same raw material. This allows the IML bottle to be recycled, as no separation is required.
Furthermore, B&I has contracts with all major plastic recycling companies to ensure that the scrap is used in a responsible manner and not dumped into our environment. Most of the scrap generated by B&I has been converted to plastic work benches and tables. This has an additional effect of saving the timber and forests that would normally be harvested for this purpose.
Next time you find yourself at the shopping mall, in the park or even at home, take a careful look around you. You may be surprised to find many items that are made from recycled plastics instead of timber and other resources.
What can you do?
This is why, as a responsible plastics bottle manufacturer in South Africa, we encourage consumers to recycle their bottles or dispose of them in the proper way. Some of the actions consumers may take to be more responsible with their plastic disposal is to use the correct recycling bin, stay away from multi-material packaging and minimise single use plastics such as straws, cutlery and disposable packaging.
If you’d like to find out more about responsible plastic packaging or the processes that go into plastics, contact B&I Polycontainers, a responsible South African plastic bottle manufacturer today.